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5 strategies to survive (and thrive) after losing a client

A woman is sitting at her desk reading papers, with Virtual Gurus.

DonnaLynne MacDonald

July 13, 2021

It happens — we all lose clients. Sometimes you see it coming, sometimes you don’t know what hit you. Either way, losing a client can be the worst.

I’m a VA and I took on a new client a while ago. I was pumped. I’d had my own company in their field of business for many years and I figured it was going to be a perfect fit. Things were set to go swimmingly.

But not so fast. Communication was challenging right from the beginning. Despite trying different approaches to connect, we never got to a good place and the client decided to end the relationship suddenly.

I was stunned, but there was no time for hand-wringing. It was time to clamber up and out. Drawing from experience, I knew it was time for a plan.

First things first. I needed a strategy to:

  1. Deal with the shock.
  2. Do the postmortem.
  3. Recover.
  4. Find the silver lining.
  5. Get on with it.

Dealing with the shock

After a few rounds of ‘deep breath, hold and exhale’, it was time for reflection and an honest examination of what I might have unwittingly contributed to the situation. After all, my objective was to be honest with myself and grow. Ideally, I’d have a light bulb moment in the hope I could avoid enduring a repeat experience.


“When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.”

– Bear Bryant, Former College Football Player


The postmortem

I worked through every would’ve, could’ve and ‘should’ve that I could come up with. I revisited all the basic building blocks of the role, re-lived my initial interview, and reflected on the ensuing relationship. With an experience as short as this one was, it didn’t take very long!

I reminded myself of the tried-and-true Pareto Principle; if you haven’t heard of it, it’s the 80-20 Rule. In a service business, it can translate to ‘80% of your stress will come from 20% of your clients’. They’ll be the ones that you just don’t click with, no matter how hard you try.


“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.”

~ Irving Berlin



It’s surprisingly easy to get fired when you’re working as a contractor. It might be just because you make somebody uncomfortable by being a bit too honest with a difficult truth. Sometimes your personalities are a bad match. Sometimes it has nothing to do with you at all.

When it’s time to wave the white flag and concede defeat it’s not time to beat yourself up. If you’re lucky enough (like I am) to have great support from your VA team, take advantage of that resource. 

They’ll listen to you and help frame your experience as a learning moment. They’ll help cushion the blow, put it in perspective, and get you back on firm ground. They’ll remind you that it’s not so much what happens, it’s the story we tell ourselves about it, and how we move forward and deal with it.

When all is said and done, be your own best friend. Look after yourself, develop coping strategies, and guard your health. Sometimes you just need to take a break in the action, hug a buddy, or walk the dog.

Remember, if you can move past the sense of injury, you’ve mastered it.

Finding the silver lining

In the end, being fired was a gift. It took the knot out of my stomach and put the spring back in my step. I was free!

Now I could get back doing what I love doing – building my business and supporting clients that appreciate what I bring and my communication style.

Get on with it

You’ve been self-reflective and taken a hard look in the mirror. You’ve learned what you could from the experience. Now it’s time to be gentle with yourself and move on. Accept that there’s no getting away from it, dealing with difficult clients when you’re flying solo is stressful. You’ll be forever forced to confront every personal perceived weakness and inadequacy.

You may find yourself second-guessing your self-worth, far more than you’d ever encounter in a regular workplace. But it also reminds you to treasure the wonderful clients who lift your luggage every day. Focus on them and put the others in your rearview mirror. The view through the windshield is always better.


“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

~Albert Einstein


For more client relationship advice from a VA perspective, read 4 Easy Tips for Building and Maintaining Client Relationships

Looking to add to your VA skillset? Check out 5 Virtual Assistant Courses Every VA Needs to Take.

Donna Lynne, a virtual assistant at the Virtual Gurus.

DonnaLynne MacDonald

DonnaLynne MacDonald is an ex-Realtor, now a solopreneur, and a Virtual Gurus Academy Instructor. She resides in beautiful downtown Edmonton. When she's not writing or supporting her virtual clients, you'll find her in the kitchen or tending to her balcony garden.

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